During Rex's 18 year rodeo career, one of the most excruciating decisions of his life was during the summer of 1994 when he had to withdraw from competing at both the Salinas and Cheyenne rodeos due to a knee injury.
There is nothing worse, aside from a trapped, bleeding grizzly on the fight, than having to deal with a rodeo cowboy on the Injured List.
At first the man refused to believe the knee was hurt as bad as it felt; especially when he discovered he had drawn Western Rodeos' Rockin' Ronnie in the Saddle Bronc Riding at Salinas. Rex hobbled around, his face defying gravity with all manner of contortions. He walked with one leg stuck awkwardly out to the side, so as not to put too much weight on it. I kept waiting for him to call ProCom in Colorado Springs to "Doctor Release" by the deadline in order to avoid paying the hefty fine plus entry fees of $700 (Rex was riding all three rough stock events at the time). My father-in-law, Bill, finally challenged Rex to do ten knee bends in one minute. Rex took him up on the dare, drew a deep breath, and started down. Down, down, down but alas; not up! Later, he reluctantly called in to withdraw from competition 30 minutes under the wire.
In the first five years of our marriage, our most trying times had been when Rex was on the Injured List. Suddenly, there were two parents at home. The kids would look at us, confused, when Rex and I barked different orders at them simultaneously. Rex would stare me down and say, "I'm perfectly capable of handling this situation!" Most of the time I would bow out gracefully. However, there were times that neither would back down and the kids ended up getting away with nothing short of murder!
A cowboy "on the bench" yearns for the adrenaline rush that rodeo provides. It's an addiction; almost like playing a game of Craps. In order to keep himself occupied, Rex decided to set up our double-wide trailer on our dream spot on the hill above the main ranch. He hopped on the backhoe, and dug all of the water lines 7 feet deep (nearly twice what was needed). He started riding a colt for his Mother. It was a good reason to use his bronc saddle! He told me, with a look of disappointment, that the "horse was real good, and almost no trouble at all" one day when he got finished working with it.
Then, he picked up a new passion. Picture this: a double set of train tracks running through our family ranch just outside of Elko, NV. One for trains going West to East; and one going East to West. One had to cross both in order to get from our dream spot on the hill to the ranch house, barn and corrals below. From high atop the hill, Rex could spot the light from a train approaching the crossing to the main ranch. He would jump on the tractor and head down the hill, racing across the iron rails with little time to spare. I cannot imagine the stress he caused the poor train engineers!
One night Rex came in the house at about dark with a look on his face of a man who had spent his whole life savings at the slot machine in Vegas, yet ready to take a loan out so he could play more. "Guess how close I came to gettin' it today? ", he asked. His Mother and I sat, staring at the T.V. Neither of us wanted to encourage this sort of activity, and tried our best to ignore him as he told his story anyway with all the enthusiasm of a seven year old. "Rex! I don't want to hear this!", his mother interrupted with a yell.
What is the moral to this story? When your rodeo cowboy is on the Injured List - keep him busy! Very, very busy!